3 Takeaways From Blackhawks’ Preseason Loss to Red Wings

Hockey is officially back! The Chicago Blackhawks faced off against the Detroit Red Wings in the Windy City for their first preseason game on Sept. 29. When you get an Original Six matchup as storied as these two teams, it’s never boring. There were a lot of things going on on both ends of the ice that made for a very dramatic finish. Although the Blackhawks lost 4-3 in the shootout, there is still a lot the team can build on going into the regular season. Here are the takeaways from the game.

Standout Players

To start with the positives of the game, I want to begin by recognizing the players that left it all on the ice.

Adam Gaudette

Gaudette is a player that deserves the first, second, and third star in my book. He was noticeable the entire game. He looked fast, energetic, and notably skilled. He started the game on the fourth line with Jujhar Khaira and MacKenzie Entwistle.

Adam Gaudette Chicago Blackhawks
Adam Gaudette, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

Gaudette was everywhere, but puck luck wasn’t on his side. He had a beautiful chance off of a pass from Wyatt Kalynuk, skated around Red Wings’ defenseman Gustav Lindstrom, took the puck to the net, and hit the goal post. The coaching staff took notice of his hustle and moved him to the second line with Kirby Dach and Brandon Hagel in the second period. He led the Blackhawks with six shots on goal, with his time on ice (TOI) being 15:31. He is currently on a “prove it” one-year contract and is looking to make the team. He will be battling with names like Khaira, Alex Nylander, and Lukas Reichel, but he made a great impression.

Jonathan Toews

I can’t not mention the captain, Toews. That was a feel-good night for fans and for him, I’m sure. He was put on the first line with Dominik Kubalik and Philipp Kurashev. He assisted on Kubalik’s goal in the first period to tie the game 1-1. He won 15 of 21 faceoffs for a faceoff percentage (FO%) of 71%. The Blackhawks’ have missed him in so many ways, especially at the dot. No one does it quite as well as he does. He also led the entire team in ice time, with his TOI being 22:15. Considering that he hasn’t played since August 2020, he looked good. What made the moment even sweeter was he scored the first goal for the Blackhawks in the shootout.

What a moment! Shootouts have always been a strength of his, so this was a fun moment. He’s still got it! Even if Toews is not ready to go by the season opener on Oct. 13, I’m glad he got to have that moment.

Henrik Borgstrom

The last player that stood out to me was Borgstrom. He came to the Blackhawks last year in a trade with the Florida Panthers. He and Reichel will be battling for a center spot on the team, but I liked what I saw out of him. In the faceoff dot, he won 8 of 17 with his FO% at 47%. He played in Finland last season for the HIFK hockey team of Liiga. The fact that he hasn’t played in the NHL for a while and came out with that number was impressive. He was on the third line with Reichel and Nylander, and he looked very comfortable. He looked very strong with the puck and looks like he could be a good playmaker.

Lackluster Power Play

Now onto the negatives. The power play was abysmal. Here is how the Blackhawks’ deployed the units:

First Power Play Unit: Dach, Kubalik, Borgstrom, Kurashev, Kalynuk

Second Power Play Unit: Toews, Reichel, Nylander, Gaudette, Nicolas Beaudin

It’s hard to judge a power play based on the first preseason game with half of the team’s starters out. But it was more than that. It was the “system.” Head coach Jeremy Colliton and the assistant coaches got off to a red-hot start with the Blackhawks’ power play last year that made the top-10 in the league. However, towards the end of the year, it fell off. I feel like we saw a continuation of the power play struggles during the game.

Head Coach Jeremy Colliton
RALEIGH, NC – NOVEMBER 12: Head Coach Jeremy Colliton of the Chicago Blackhawks watches the action on the ice during an NHL game against the Carolina Hurricanes on November 12, 2018, at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Blackhawks got five power-play opportunities with nothing to show for it. During those opportunities, there weren’t a lot of good looks. A couple of times, it looked like they could have hit a stride, but overall there was too much passing, not enough shooting. It seemed like the Blackhawks were standing around trying to play keep away. Maybe the power play units will look completely different with the starters in there, but those struggles were not what I was expecting to see. I was hoping to see more aggressiveness and shoot-first mentalities and those qualities were very minimal. It didn’t go as planned, but I know that’s something the coaching staff will address.

New Faces, Same Result

Much like the power play “system,” the “system” of the entire game didn’t sit right with me. The team had plenty of new faces in the lineup, and it seems like they keep ending up with the same result. Last year, the Blackhawks had a lot of great moments during games and then would self-implode towards the end. That is what I saw in this game. The Blackhawks found their groove pretty early. Although the Red Wings scored the first goal in the first period, Chicago answered right back with Kubalik tying the game at 1-1. In the second period, Hagel scored two minutes in to make it 2-1. Khaira added another goal over a minute later to make it 3-1.

That was the last we saw of offense.

After that, Detroit answered over a minute later to make it 3-2. Then came the third period. With less than two minutes left, the Red Wings scored to tie the game at 3-3, leading Chicago to lose in the shootout.

It may have been a different team, but I felt like I was watching the Blackhawks of last year at times. They had stretches of dominance where they looked phenomenal and then just disappeared. After their two quick goals in the second period, they were nowhere to be seen in the third. They didn’t take advantage of the opportunities they had with the power play. They had a two-goal lead that they didn’t protect and collapsed at the end of the third period. That inconsistency in play from last year re-emerged. Again, it’s a preseason game that means nothing, but it’s hard not to be concerned when you see the same patterns emerge with minor changes in the game plan.

The positives to take from this game is that the team itself is highly skilled. They can be a problem for the opposition when the players stick to their strengths. They showed glimpses where they played great defense and seemed to be clicking offensively before they went stagnant. That is something to build on for the next game. They got the chances, and they just have to make the most of it. Now that they got the first game out of the way, their next game should look more cohesive. Luckily, they’re right back at it with a game against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 1. They need improvements and that’s a good thing. Every team needs a starting point. We’ll have to see the adjustments that Colliton and company make for the next game with even more new faces. Go Hawks!

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